Home videos, woodcraft... how some Singaporeans passed the time during Covid-19

Woodcraft by Ivonna and Madeline Tan displayed in one of their homes located at Clementi Avenue 5 in Singapore October 13, 2020. — TODAY pic
Woodcraft by Ivonna and Madeline Tan displayed in one of their homes located at Clementi Avenue 5 in Singapore October 13, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 19 — Bored at home with little to do during the circuit breaker period, the Ding family channelled their restless energy into making short home videos to pass the time and keep themselves entertained.

In one video, eight-year-old Rheann Ding puts on a bright and cheerful smile as she narrates a day in her life under lockdown — how she prepares for home-based learning and attends virtual ballet and piano classes through video messaging platform Zoom.

In another, Rheann and her older sister Megan, 12, are dressed in costumes inspired by the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. They can be seen rapping to lyrics Megan wrote to the beat and melody of My Shot, one of the show’s popular songs.

Giselle Lau, who plays the dual role of mother and director in these mini productions, said she wanted the videos to be an example to her daughters on how they can turn a negative situation into a positive one.

“Hopefully when we look back at it, we can see that it wasn’t so bad, and in fact there were so many nuggets of wonderful things that came out of it,” said the 48-year-old homemaker.

The Ding family’s home videos are among the 450 public contributions that the National Library Board (NLB) has received so far for its project to document life under the pandemic in Singapore.

NLB’s National Library director Huism Tan said the aim of the project is to build up a collection that captures the unprecedented crisis so that future generations can understand what life was like during this period.

“(We want) to capture a real diverse picture of life in this particular moment, and to document how life has changed over the different phases of the pandemic,” said Tan, who is also covering director of National Archives of Singapore.

NLB made the call for submissions in May, and will continue to welcome submissions until December 31.

Prior to the collection drive, the board had already been archiving websites and television broadcasts, as well as collecting photographs and other ephemera related to Covid-19 since February.

Fostering a community spirit

As the founder of volunteering group Be Kind SG, Sherry Soon was already involved in many community initiatives that took off when the coronavirus struck Singapore.

But the 39-year-old still wanted to do something closer to home and so she decided to hand out care packs to the 13 neighbours that lived on her floor at her Housing and Development Board (HDB) block.

“We wanted to tell them that they are not alone, and they can always reach out to someone who is living near them if they need help,” said Soon.

Inside the care packs were a bottle of hand sanitiser and a simple note to let her neighbours know who she was and her contact number, in case they ever needed assistance.

Soon was not sure if she would get any responses as she was not familiar with many of her neighbours. She was later surprised when some neighbours reciprocated with appreciative messages and ice cream treats.

One neighbour even offered his services should she ever need any assistance with handy works.

When asked if she would do something like this again, Soon said she “definitely would” as a community spirit is always needed in times of crisis.

“Sometimes we think that we don’t have any resources or money. But I think even without the hand sanitiser, the note would still have been quite powerful,” she said.

“I hope that everyone can think of different ways that they can contribute If you want to do something, I think that’s enough.”

Daily crafting sessions to keep going

When Singapore went into lockdown in April, craft buddies Ivonna, 39, and Madeline Tan, in her 60s, embarked on an ambitious project to create over 100 wooden dolls as a tribute to the healthcare workers who were fighting the pandemic on the frontlines.

The pair were just woodcraft novices, only seriously taking up the hobby in December last year.

Still, they were undeterred by their lack of experience and professional tools, making use of online video tutorials and daily consults over the phone to hone their skills and improve the design of the dolls.

“Because we were such noobs, there were a lot of challenges at every step,” said Ivonna, who goes by one name. In the beginning, it could take up to a day to have one doll finished.

But over the two-month lockdown, their skills improved and now, they can easily complete a doll in about two hours.

The pair succeeded in finishing their 100 figurines and gifted them to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for Nurses’ Day.

Ivonna and Madeline Tan said the project, while meaningful, also helped to anchor them to a routine and allowed them to keep in touch and lean on each other for support during the circuit breaker period.

This was especially helpful for Madeline, who had to stop volunteering with her local Residents’ Committee when the authorities suspended social activities for seniors in March.

“It was very boring for me being alone at home,” said Madeline. “At least with this I have someone to text and there is communication.”

A diverse slice of life

NLB’s Tan said she hopes the project will illustrate the diversity and range of reactions that people had during the pandemic.

“Not everybody had a great time. (For some people), it has also been very challenging,” she said. “But we want to give that sense of hope that there was good that was done despite the challenges.”

Tan said the plan in the immediate future is for the contributions to go up on a searchable database online.

Eventually, NLB hopes to have a digital platform up to present the collection. It is also exploring the possibility of putting up a physical exhibition.

The board has already started sharing interesting stories from the contributors on its blog and social media platforms.

Members of the public interested in submitting contributions to NLB’s “Documenting Covid-19 in Singapore” project can visit its website to find out more. — TODAY

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